If you have already purchased or would like to purchase an NFT artwork, you have probably wondered where this artwork is stored. To explain this, we need to go back to NFT Art’s structure briefly. An NFT artwork consists of the digital artwork itself and the token. In the article “What is NFT Art”, you will find a detailed explanation.
There are three different ways to store the artwork and the token. Let’s find out more about them:
1. The token is stored on a blockchain, and the artwork is stored on a server (centralized storage).
With this option, the token is stored on a blockchain (usually Ethereum blockchain) and the Art is stored on a central server. This means that the token on the blockchain only links to the piece of art. The risk is that if the server hosting the image shuts down, the NFT is worthless. There would be a token linking to a non-existing file. Overall, the risk with this option is relatively high.
Example: Crypto Kitties
2. The token is stored on a blockchain, and the artwork is stored on another blockchain or decentralized storage.
The second option is that the token is stored on the blockchain, and the artwork is stored on another blockchain or decentralized solution (e.g. IPFS or Arweave). These solutions are less risky than the centralized solution.
In our interview with IPFS expert Molly Mackinlay, she explained exactly why: “By being more decentralized, IPFS removes single points of failure from taking out a website or file hosted at a static location address. IPFS is built around the concept that any peer who has the data you want can send it to you, and you can validate it securely via its hash. That means if the original hoster experiences an outage and can’t serve you the file, anyone else on the network who has already fetched it could send it to you instead – helping mitigate DDOS attacks, censorship, and centralized manipulation of content.”
3. The artwork, as well as the token, are both stored on the identical blockchain.
In the last variant, token and artwork are stored on an identical blockchain. This is certainly the most secure variant. Even if the website you bought the artwork from (e.g. Opensea) is no longer there, you can still access the artwork via the blockchain.
We asked Molly why not every artwork is hosted on the blockchain: “Blockchains are amazing tools for distributed consensus, but really bad tools for scalable data storage. In order to validate all the on-chain actions, every single participant in the blockchain has to sync, verify, and hold on to ALL data that is stored on-chain. That makes it a pretty terrible storage medium for large images, movies, songs, and more — it would just require too much space (and too much gas!) to embed all that data in Ethereum. That’s why most dapp developers use IPFS to permanently address data they want to reference in a smart contract, but store off-chain in decentralized storage networks like Filecoin — it scales much better for the whole community. Check out nft.storage for a really easy tool for storing off-chain NFTs!”
In conclusion, it is certainly important to know that there are the three options described above. Check the location when buying an NFT artwork and decide for yourself which option would work for you. For example, for Ethereum minted NFTs there is a tool that makes it easy to check the location: https://checkmynft.com/.
Furthermore, it is crucial to outline that the NFT Art world is so fast-moving. By the time this article is written, people are already developing new options.
- Interview with IPFS Expert Molly Mackinlay